the charles stratton dana greenhouses ... - arnold...
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A continuation of the
BULLETIN OF POPULAR INFORMATIONof the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University
VOLUME Z2 MAY I I, 196~ NUMBERS 5-6
THE CHARLES STRATTON DANA GREENHOUSES
I N March of 1962 the staff of the Arnold Arboretum accepted and occupied anew set of greenhouses. Modern in design, construction, and function thesegreenhouses provide excellent new facilities for the Arboretum staff for work inplant propagation and for the study of living plants.
In the very early years of the Arnold Arboretum, the growth of seeds and thevegetative propagation of plants for the developing collection was implementedin the Harvard Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. The time required to commuteand the d~fficulty of transportation led Mr. Jackson Dawson, the first superm-tendent and propagator, to build what he described as a "tiny unpretentiousgreenhouse" at the rear of his house at 1090 Centre Street, in Jamaica Plain.This modest unit, supplemented by a pit house and cold frames, contained fornearly a decade the plants propagated for the Arboretum collections and for dis-tribution to other gardens. It was inevitable that this limited facility would beoutgrown, and, in 1917, a modern greenhouse was built on a small corner lotbetween Prince Street and Orchard Street and separated from the Arboretum bythe Arborway. It was again a limited area and proved to be even more restrictedand isolated as the traffic increased on the Arborway and that street was widened.Dawsons successor, William Judd, for 33 years the propagator on the Arboretumstaff, reported in his dairy for June 13, 1927, that this property had been soldand that he must move his plants by May 1, 1928. Under the guidance of OakesAmes, then supervisor of the Arnold Arboretum, a new location was chosen ad-jacent to the greenhouses of the Bussey Institution, on Bussey Institution landwhich did not belong to the Arboretum, overlooking the shrub collection of theArboretum. The greenhouse area was occupied in the summer of 1928, and, in1929, an additional greenhouse was added. This familiar pair of greenhouses witha small, white, frame headhouse served the Arboretum from 1928 through the
past winter. Finally another move seemed inevitable when successive bills werefiled in the State Legislature during the past decade to acquire the Bussey land
by eminent domain proceedings. The continuous threats to our greenhouse opera-tions required the selection of an area offering greater stability, larger nurseryareas, and a new and modern building. Fortunately, a timely bequest and someavailable land suitably located led to the present new development.
While the majority of the land occupied by the Arnold Arboretum is owned bythe City of Boston and rented in perpetuity, the four and one-half acre site chosenfor the Dana greenhouses is owned by Harvard College for the Arnold Arbore-tum. This property, at 10.i0 Centre Street, adjoins the main collections near the
plantings of lilacs. Its accessibility for visitors, staff, and equipment, both fromthe Arboretum and from a major highway, makes it a most convenient location.The construction of the new greenhouses at this time was made possible through
the income of the Mercer Trust, established from the residuary estate of Dlrs.William R. Mercer. Mrs. Mercer, nee Martha Dana, was a native of Boston andthe daughter of Charles Stratton Dana and Marie Grogan Dana. She died atDoylestown, Pennsylvania, February 21, 1960, and her will provided that theincome of her estate be divided equally between the Arnold Arboretum, theBoston Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
It was Mrs. Mercers wish that the use of her bequest honor her father and his
lasting interest m the Arnold Arboretum. This has been done in naming the newgreenhouses the Charles Stratton Dana Greenhouses of the Arnold Arboretum.A plaque inside the front hall indicates that construction was made possiblethrough the generosity of his daughter, Dlartha Dana Mercer. The income fromthe Mercer Trust is also used to award Dlercer Fellowships in horticulture andbotany, thus honoring BIrs. Mercer, too. Research space in the Dana Green-houses is available for holders of these fellowships.
With the approval of the President and Fellows of Harvard College, who arethe trustees of the Arnold Arboretum, the firm of Griswold, Boyden, WyldeandAmes was engaged as architects. When final drawings were approved, the specifi-cations were placed for competitive bids and the construction contract was awardedto Bond Brothers, Inc., of Everett, Massachusetts. Ground was broken on May12, 1961, by President Nathan iBI. Pusey, of Harvard, in the presence of mem-bers of the Committee to Visit the Arnold Arboretum, the architects, the con-
tractor, and members of the Arboretum staff. Work on the greenhouses continuedthrough the fall, and the cold storage house was occupied m November 1961,and the greenhouses in March 1962.The Charles Stratton Dana Greenhouses comprise a main building with three
attached glasshouses, a cold storage house, a bonsai house, a permanent shadehouse, nursery and plant beds. The four and one-half acre plot of land hasbeen fenced so that the gates can be locked and the buildings and nursery areasguarded in a manner not possible previously. Special plantings have been made
(Top): Plaque located in entrance to the main building. (Bottom): Mr. NathanM. Pusey, President, Harvard University, breaks ground for the Dana Greenhouseson May l~L, 1961 with members of the Overseers Committee to visit the Arnold Arbo-retum, architects, contractors, and members of the Arboretum staff present.
around the buildings in such a manner as to accentuate the nursery areas with
displays showing how plant materials can be used.
The Main Building
By tradition the main building to which the glasshouses are attached bears thename of the "headhouse." This common name hardly does justice to the modernwork area and research facilities now available to the Arboretum staff. The first
floor and full basement are 36x 1 1 feet and are topped by a centered second floor
apartment 22x68 feet. Vorking space for the propagating staff occupies the cen-tral area of the first floor and the full length of the rear of the building. At thetwo ends are smaller rooms, one a modern laboratory for cytological or morpho-logical research, the other a conference room with blackboard and screen whichcan be used as a small lecture room. Skylights in the roof supplement the fluo-rescent lighting in the research laboratory and the work areas. Storage space,such as walk-in rooms, cupboards, and open shelving, is abundant in all areas. Anacid-resistant black "vulcathane" covers the 400 square feet of work surface and
potting benches. The walls of the work area are of glazed tile for easy cleaning.Stainless steel sinks and drainboards are used in the laboratory. A small lunch-room area adjoins complete locker facilities for the staff. Soil for use in the workarea is placed in hoppers located outside the building and so designed that thesoil is available inside the building through openings under the work benches.There are two walk-in cold-storage rooms on the first floor. One room 1 1 x ; 7
feet can be maintained at temperatures between ~8 and -t0 F. This will beused for temporary storage of cuttings, for seed storage, and for seed-dormancyresearch. The second room is 8x7 feet, with temperatures controlled between 35
and -20 F. This room will be used for experiments determining plant hardiness,inception of flowering, and foliage variation experiments. Either room can bereadily converted to constant environment chambers if such physiological workis required. As with the first floor, the full basement is dominated by work or
storage areas for plant propagation. A passageway the full length of the building~s designed for plant beds which can be illuminated by fluorescent lighting, orportions of it can be used for storage. Two small rooms are designed for enclosed
storage and open areas at either end of the basement for storage on exposedshelving. The basement can be reached by two stairwells inside the building aswell as by a delivery well on the west end. An electric lift, a type of dumbwaiter, allows the easy transport of a small wheelbarrow, bales of peat moss andsimilar supplies between the basement and the first floor work area.The building is heated by two oil fueled furnaces and forced hot water. The
furnaces can be run either interchangeably or together. Thirty-five thermostatscontrol the supply of heat to the greenhouses and various parts of the building.An auxiliary electric generator capable of producing 15 kilowatts is operated onfuel oil from the main storage tanks and a storage battery. If the main line vol-
(Top): North side of the main building and the greenhouses. (Bottom): Viewlooking south of the main building, the glasshouses, the shade house and the coldstorage house.
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tage drops below 70% of its normal load the auxiliary generator operates auto-matically. This emergency electric supply will operate both the cold rooms andthe furnaces in case of power failure, ensuring protection for the plants in the
greenhouses as well as any low-temperature experiments in progress.The second floor of the main building contains a modern two bedroom apart-
ment. The back wall of the living room area consists of floor to ceiling glass panelswhich open onto a large deck area surrounding the apartment on three sides. The
apartment will be occupied by a staff member generally responsible for the green-house area during non-working hours. The entire area is easily observed from this
apartment, and a battery of eight searchlights can be used at night to illuminatethe area. An electric system of alarms is located in the apartment, and will serve
notice of heat, power, or refrigeration failure in any part of the building.Stained redwood siding is used on the front of the main building. Aluminum
casements are on all doors and windows and bronze screens add protection. Ex-terior maintenance costs should be moderate.
Three all-aluminum glasshouses, supplied by the Lord and Burnham Company,are attached to the main building. These are of the "Century" class and eachis 1 i x51 feet, with eaves 6 feet high. House "A" is designed for research pro-jects which may require different environmental conditions. Each section of thishouse may be maintamed at different conditions of temperature, light, and hu-
midity. Two of the sections have 153 square feet of bench space each, with a walkon either side of a central bench. The third section has a central area without
benching to allow the growth of plants to a height of ten feet. House "B" is a
single unit without divisions and with a central walk. An experimental bench
plan utilizing peninsulas offers ~82 square feet of bench space. The peninsulasand side walks off the central aisle are arranged so all areas can be reached by an
average-sized person. House "B" has 15% more bench space than House "C"because of this bench arrangement. House "C" has one partition dividing it intotwo areas, each with 248 square feet of bench space. An area has been reserved
for a fourth greenhouse designed to be comparable to house "A" when this ad-ditional space is required.
All sections of the greenhouse area have automatic heat controls and automaticventilation. All benches are built of "Transite," a mixture of asbestos and ce-ment. Suitable wiring and 88 electric outlets will allow the use of electric heat-
ing cables on the benches and accessory lights or additional types of electric re-search instruments. The walks in the greenhouses are at the same level as thefloor of the main building and exterior sidewalks. Wheelbarrows, carts and simi-lar vehicles can be moved easily in or out. Redwood slat shades will be used onthe greenhouses.
(Top): Propagation work area. (Bottom): Propagation aork area at rear ofmain building. Shown on left all is the electric lift to the basement, storageroom, propagation work area, and two refrigeration rooms. Greenhouses are onthe right.
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Plant Beds and Nurseries
The plant beds and nursery areas are on the same level as the greenhouses andare easily accessible from bordering roads. They should be the most practical unitsof this kind that the Arboretum has ever had. A shade house 30x I 05 feet is lo-
cated between the greenhouses and the cold storage house. Concrete frames markthe edges of this area. A permanent pipe frame supports not only the saran clothbut an overhead irrigation system as well. Saran cloth, woven of a plastic fiber,can be rolled over the pipe frame when required and removed for storage duringthe remainder of the year. Parallel to the greenhouses, occupying the place ofthe fourth greenhouse, are three concrete-framed nursery beds. Adjacent to themain building to the east and west are additional blocks of land totaling approxi-mately an acre to be used as space for additional nursery plantings.
The Cold Storage House
A building of concrete blocks and reinforced concrete insulated with two-inchslabs of "Styrofoam" has been built into the north side of a hill and will serveas a cold pit storage area. The building, 15x 100 feet, is divided into two com-partments. The east end is for winter storage of the bonsai plants. The west endoccupying three-fourths of the building is for the storage of dormant plants, cut-tings, scions and stock plants in flats or pots. Twelve hundred and twenty-fivesquare feet of shelving is provided for such storage. One side of this area is clearfor heeling plants into the soil.The cold storage house is built with electric heaters, as well as refrigeration
units. The temperature in the area reserved for the bonsai collections will bemaintained just above freezing. The temperature in the larger area can be fluctu-ated or maintained steady. The main objective of this experimental storage unitis to hold dormant woody plants from mid-October to mid-May and to preventvegetative growth. When used in conjunction with the walk-in cold chambers ofthe main building, these refrigeration units will allow experimental work onhardiness and vegetative dormancy of the plants grown at the Arboretum.
The Bonsai House
In front of the main building, a hexagonal display house has been constructedfor the collection of Japanese dwarfed trees given to the Arboretum by Mrs. LarzAnderson of Brookline, in memory of her husband. The attractive house is madeof redwood slats, 2. l5 inches wide and set 3.75 inches apart. The building is 9feet long on each side and approximately 18 feet in diameter. The plants will bedisplayed on raised concrete benches and will be readily visible from inside orout. A walk with a railing completely surrounding the bonsai house serves forviewing the plants when the doors are locked and also gives a vista over theadjacent plantings. Overhead sprinklers facilitate the care of these interesting
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(Top): View inside the Bonsai house. (Bottom): The Bonsai house.
plants. Since the bonsai must be moved to the cold storage house for the win-
ter, care was taken to assure that these heavy plants could be handled easily.The area between the two locations is level.
The construction of a new greenhouse on ample land of clear title not onlywill further the practical and scientific work in plant propagation and horticul-tural research but will also afford an opportunity for attractive landscaping of a
building and the development of new collections of horticultural interest. Mr.Seth Kelsey of East Boxford, a member of the Committee to Visit the ArnoldArboretum has worked with the staff in designing these new plantings. Further-more, he has on his own initiative invited various nurseries to contribute manyof the plants needed for these plantings. As a result of his interest and effort,we gratefully acknowledge the contributions of over 1300 plants by eight Massa-chusetts nurseries: Adams Nursery, Westfield; Cherry Hill Nurseries, West
Newbury ; Corliss Brothers Nursery, Ipswich ; Jackson Brothers Nursery, Norton ;Kelsey-Highlands Nursery, Boxford; Littlefield-~yman Nurseries, Abington;Weston Nurseries, Hopkinton, and Wymans Garden Center, Inc., Framingham.The large plants these nurseries have donated will make many of the demonstra-tion areas of practical value in the very near future. Many additional plants propa-gated by the Arboretum staff will be placed ~n their proper locations but will
require a longer period to reach maturity and to be of demonstrative value.One of the potentially attractive plantings is a collection of 28 cultivars of
American holly. This selection was offered to the Arnold Arboretum by WilfridWheeler in the fall of 1961. He personally selected the plants, which representthe last of a long series of generous gifts he has made to our plantings. Regretta-bly, Wilfrid Wheeler died on Christmas Day 1961, but his wishes were carriedout by his sons, Wilfrid, Jr., Richard, and Charles. The Wheeler hollies are in-
terplanted with flowering dogwood and white pine and are located on a slopeimmediately inside the Arboretum gate in the greenhouse area.On the slopes flanking the cold storage house will be bank plantings of low or
prostrate junipers. A demonstration area of various types of plants suitable forbank planting will be located along the Centre Street bank below the green-houses. Plants suitable for espaliered growth are planted on the front wall of thecold storage house. Suitable ground-cover plants will be used in many flat areas.Genetically dwarf evergreens, mainly conifers, will form a bank planting belowthe bonsai house, accentuating the artificially dwarfed plants in the house. Finally,in the flat area north of the greenhouses the Arboretum collection of hedges willbe planted. The present collection, of limited value for demonstration purposesbecause of its location on Bussey Institution property, will be moved when possi-ble and new hedges added or used as replacements. The planting plan allowsspace for approximately 100 types of hedge planting.
The entire area ~s surrounded by a chain-link fence. It will be open to the
public at regular hours, but the buildmgs, plantings, and nursery areas will beprotected adequately for the first time in recent years.The development of this new area of the Arboretum offering new plantings to
the visitors and new facilities for horticultural research to the staff has been the
work of many people. The generosity of Mrs. William Dana Mercer as one of theFriends of the Arnold Arboretum made the construction possible. The develop-ment of the area was aided by the use of the annual gifts and of the plants con-tributed by other Friends. These gifts from loyal supporters of the work of thestaff of the Arnold Arboretum are acknowledged with gratitude.
RICHARD A. HOWARD
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